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European Commission issues proposals to standardise EU customs penalties.

The European Commission is proposing to standardise customs penalties across the EU, first by outlining a uniform list of offences with recommended fines and fees, said an EC statement.

Penalties for customs offences vary across the 28 states even though the entire EU is under the same customs legislation.

"There is no point in a solid, single set of rules if we do not also have a common approach to responding when they are broken," said EU Customs Commissioner Algirdas Semeta.

"There is a patchwork of responses to rule-breakers. Today's proposal will create a more level playing field for businesses, a more secure market for citizens and a more uniformly managed customs union," he said.

Sanctions would be leveled in the case of unpaid duties, a failure to declare goods, falsified or incorrect documents, the unauthorised removal of goods from the customs area, and other offences.

Punishment for minor customs violations, such as inadvertent errors, could be equivalent to one per cent of the value of the goods being shipped.

For the most serious offences, the EC proposes to levy a fine of 30 per cent of the goods' value or up to EUR45,000 (US$61,983).

The commission said these fines would also take into account "the nature and circumstances of the infringement, including the frequency and duration, whether a trusted trader is involved, and the level of tax evasion."